Hired Military Transport

HMT Empire Clyde


 

Memoirs, comments, anecdotes, stories and photographs about long-ago travels of His/Her Majesty's Troops on "HMT's". Contributions  from-and about-Great Grandfathers, Grandfathers, Fathers, Sons & Daughters, Relatives, former Mates & Regimental comrades and friends of "Old Soldiers".  Go back in time as far as you wish. Add YOUR memorabilia, photos and comments. We will add the details and photos of your nominated Troopship. 

DO IT NOW!!

 

Email The Editor (live link) with your "stuff".

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MANY OF THE SHIPS PICTURED ON THIS SITE ARE PUBLISHED BY COURTESY OF THE WEBMASTER ON THE LINK BELOW: YOU WILL DISCOVER YOUR SHIP OF CHOICE ON THIS VERY COMPREHENSIVE COLLECTION OF EXCELLENT PHOTOGRAPHS.

GALLERY 39 - TROOPSHIPS 

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HMS Victory 

Whoops!! what's this? - perhaps the most famous of all troopships? (If you shipped on the Victory in 1778 please get in touch with the Editor immediately).  There are many 1,000's of people who would like to talk to you, to say nothing of the backpay due!  

 

HMS Victory was commissioned in 1778 under the command of Rear Admiral John Campbell (1st Captain) and Captain Jonathan Faulknor (2nd Captain), with the flag of Admiral the Honorable Augustus Keppel. She was armed with smooth bore, cast iron cannon 30 x 32 and 42 pounders (15 and 19 kg), 30 x 24 pounders (11 kg), and 40 x 12 pounders (5 kg). Later she also carried two carronades, firing 68 lb (31 kg) round shot.

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The prefix HMT was thought to be an acronym for "His/Her Majesty's Troopships"but this is evidently not the case. We are advised by a reliable authority that the main titling above is accurate. One has to concede however that our former (incorrect) interpretation sounds more appropriate to the task involved.

 

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SCROLL to HMT Troopship Listing below - not alphabetically listed


HMTs LISTED (in requested order-not alphabetical): HMT Lancashire - HMT SS Vienna - HMT Empire Ken - HMT Empire Clyde (HMT Test) - HMT SS Dunera - HMT Empire Trooper - HMT Empire Windrush - HMT SS Orbita - HMT MV Devonshire - SS Franconia - SS Eastern Prince - ST Superman - HMT Empire Orwell - HMT Empire Dilwara

PUBLISH YOUR "HMT" STORY AND PHOTOS NOW! 

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TROOPSHIP BLOG

Log a Comment and develop a cross related reply and thread 'conversation' from Old Mates: Gets you there in a click! 

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ALPHABETICAL CONTRIBUTORS ROLL

(Supply Full Name, Service Number, Rank & Regiment)

 

BEECHEY Rosemarie (nee Kershaw) born 1943See Rosemarie's contribution at endpage.

CALLEN William (Bill), RAF 552127. Sgt. Wireless Operator. HMT SS Orbita

CLARK June, (for her father Charles 'Nobby' Clark) Merchant Marine, RAF, ST Superman

COOK Ron, Royal Signals OWOL 40 Div, 27 Brigade.  HMT SS Orbita

GILES John, RASC, 19636378 (Sergeant): SS Franconia, Eastern Prince

GRIFFITHS William (Bill), 4042838 1KSLI, RAPC, RAPC TAVR (WO2): HMT Empire Trooper, HMT Windrush & more.   

HASKETT Roy, Royal Marines: HMT SS Vienna & HMT Empire (?)  (also Roy about his father on HMT Lancashire)

HIBBERT Graham G. (Cpl) 23435450 RAMC: HMT Dunera.  See Graham's contribution below.

HUGHES Edward,  Nephew of HJ 'Hugh' Hughes, AB D/JX150645 H J Hughes: HMT Lancashire - see comment below

LOVEMORE Derek. 22935157 1DCLI (Cpl): HMT Empire Clyde (Site Editor) (Name is Hotlinked to 1DCLI Bermuda)

PAGE Michael RH (Capt RN retd): HMT Windrush.  See Michael's contribution below

RICKARD Tom. 22996479  R.A.S.C. 8 Coy. MV Devonshire - see Tom's comment below

SCOTT Maurice A: HQ Coy Clerk #22464644 Royal Lincolnshire Regt. HMT Test (SS Empire Clyde later). HMT SS Lancashire

SPENCER John, (Former 2 Lt) Northamptonshire Regt, on secondmment. HMT Test (HMT Empire Clyde later)

TENNISWOOD John 22823909 (Sgt) RAC, RAPC, 1DCLI: HMT Empire Clyde

WILLIAMS John, RAF 4121606. Senior Aircraftsman.  HMT SS Lancashire   


A "CLICK" Where surname is underlined will hotlink the reader to another website containing information about the soldier 


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We are advised by a friendly contributor with many years of  association with private shipping Contractors, that our use of the terminology "HMTroopships" is not strictly correct in terms of titling parlance - where this website refers to all British Government contracted Troopships as "HMT".  We are advised that only ships officially crewed by the British Royal Navy are entitled to use the prefix "HM" and if you care to do your own research, you will likely draw that same conclusion.  However, our motives are pure in the sense that common usage often dictates language and we shall continue to borrow the Royal prefix for our "HMT" records, in the continuing interests of all we Old Soldiers who seek to record our fond (or otherwise) memories of troop sea travel in the past to all parts of the globe.  We shall (smilingly) claim that we really mean "His/Her Majesty's Troops (Ships)" - ergo HMTroopships! - to keep things simple for us Old Soldiers.  Never mind memories of the '40's/'50's - what did I have for breakfast today, and where did I leave my spectacles?

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HMT Lancashire

HMT.Lancashire(2)Built 1914 for Bibby Line, in 1930 converted to permanent troopship, scrapped at Barrow in 1956. Length 502 ft. Breadth 57 ft. Depth 35'10" Tonnage 9,543 tons, H.P. 6,000

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(Posted 6th December 2006) Lancashire took my father to Malta in April 1934. They appeared to have arrived at Malta on 22/04/1934.  He was posted to RAF Flying Boat base at Calafrna, attached to 202(FB) Squadron. Lancashire seems to have taken service personnel as far as India and was out in the far east at the fall of Singapore. I also have heard it was still in far east service (possibly Hong Kong) as late as 1956.

(Signed by Roy Haskett - see photos below for SS Vienna & Empire Ken.

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(Posted 18th May 2007) I think it was onboard this Troopship that The Royal Lincolns returned to Blighty in 1952 on their way to Goslar Germany. I was with them.  Also on board were the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders returning from Aden.  By the time we arrived in Liverpool we had had enough of pipes and drums. Anybody out there recall those days. Chirpy Day, George Scott, Don Ling, Dolly Gray.

(Signed by) Maurice Scott HQ Company Clerk

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(Posted 1st June 2007)  John Williams, RAF, Senior Aircraftsman 1953 - 1956 served in the Middle East and returned home on the Lancashire.  John's civilian profession has placed him in touch with many ships that were contracted by the British Government in the '50's and '60's to transport British Service personnel around the globe and we shall be writing about his 17 years involvement with many famous shipping Contractors.  John's Memoirs are too large for the small postings on this page and an 'extract' would not do justice to a very interesting story.  So we are creating an entire "John William's Memoirs" for separate website publishing, which will shortly be linked to this comment.  Please watch this space.  John Williams , now 76, is also listed on "Most Wanted" and can be contacted via the site editor.

Editor June 2007

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Only just found your site in my search for info. on my late uncle Hugh. Attached are scans of a postcard found amongst my father's belongings. As AB D/JX150645 H J Hughes, his brother Hugh sent this postcard to his parents from the Lancashire about to sail for the Far East and join HMS Thracian in December 1941. This was the last they heard from him as he was reported killed in HMS Scout in early March 1942. His name is on the Plymouth War Memorial but we never knew what happened in those few months. Lancashire seems to have survived to a ripe old age.
Regards,  Ed Hughes (Posted to site on 7th November 2008)

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(Posted to site 8th November 2008): Many thanks Derek, I myself spent 29 years flying in the Royal Navy from 1962-91 but trooping by then was courtesy of the RAF, although I made the same journey from UK to Singapore to join HMS Victorious in a shaky British Eagle Airways Britannia chartered by the MOD. We diverted to RAF Gan in the Maldives with engine failure! It was probably safer by sea.  
 
If you are into post war history check out http://www.seavixen.org/ which is dedicated to an era I was proud to be part of. Click on the aircrew Testimonies and Careers buttons for my contribution.  Had some happy times visiting Sydney and Perth in HMS Victorious and Eagle. The hospitality was incredible.  Regards, Ed Hughes  
 
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 HMT SS Vienna

Built 1929 in 1941 purchased from London & North Eastern Railway, troop and hospital ship, 1945 Harwich-Hook of Holland, 1960 scrapped. 4,227tons

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HMT Empire Ken

9523tons, built 1928 Passenger ship.
1928 UBENA, German East Africa Line.
1939 German Navy, U-Boat depot ship.
1945 German hopital ship.
1945 Seized by Allies at Travemunde.
1945 EMPIRE KEN, MOWT troopship.
1957 Scrapped Dalmuir

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Memoirs of Roy Haskett posted December 6th 2006. 

In June 1957 I was in the 288 Light Anti-Aircraft Regt RA, TA Army Cadets in Blackpool.  We went to visit Sphinx Battery 4th Regt. Royal Horse Artillery at Hohne Lager Barracks , Nr Celle, West Germany.  They had 144mm self propelled guns to play with.  We were luck enough to see various other units, such as the Devonshire Regt. and a couple of Armoured Units.  We had a Bombadier Barry Bannister to act as chaperon.  The guy seeing us off officially from the Old Blackpool North Station was the then Mayor of Blackpool, Alderman H Gribaldeston (Mayors had names to match their titles in those days). 

I'm the guy 2nd left front row with his gut sicking out a mile more than the others.  (Ed - see photos below).

After changing at London, we sailed from Harwich to the Hook of Holland.  I believe we sailed out on the Empire ? (Roy to confirm) and back on the SS Vienna.  I'm positive about the Vienna because it was reputed to have a flat bottom and it was certainly choppy on the way back.  We were bunked down in the aft section right above the rudder by the feel of it.

I was wondering if you would know who I could write to to ask for a refund?  We had a meal on the quay side at Harwich, prior to sailing about 8.00 pm.  It was without doubt the worst meal I've ever had in my life.  After that I had a healthy respect for the members of the Army Catering Corps.  I firmly believed from there onwards that they were the only true trained killers in the Army!

By the way, as you'll see, I finally managed to get rid of the gut some where (for a while anyway) prior to passing out in the Royal Marines at CTCRM Lympstone in April 1972.  Needless to say it's now creeping back.  (Editor: Roy is hoping that Bombadier Barry Bannister will be made aware of this posting and recontact Roy through this website).

 Awaiting further descriptive details from Roy Haskett

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HMT Empire Clyde

 TSS. Cameronia. Later renamed SS. Empire Clyde - 7515tons built 1925 Passenger ship.
Scrapped in September 1957 at Newport, Monmouthshire.

Accurate information relating to the Empire Clyde has now been published in great detail on the "A" Company 1DCLI website found by clicking the bolded underlined hotlinked title.  Scroll down several pages to get to that section.

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(Memoirs of (Cpl) Derek Lovemore #22935157 posted on 7th December 2006 )

1DCLI entrained from Crownhill Barracks Plymouth on a dirty day on February 18th 1954 headed for Liverpool docks to board the Empire Clyde sailing the following day on the night tide.  The Regiment was being posted to Hamilton Bermuda, Kingston & Newcastle, Jamaica, and Belize British Honduras.  It was raining - did it ever do anything else in England?  We rookies - having been trained at Bodmin for 10 weeks since 5th November 1953 - and bollocked like fury by RSM Royffe for just 2 weeks or so at Plymouth - were happy just to see the back of Old Blighty for a while, and face the adventures of some foreign service. 

The dusk fell and the Band played "Auld Lang Syne",  "Now is the hour" and probably "Will ye no come back again" and "Greensleeves" as the old tub slowly wended its way down the Mersey to the Irish Sea leaving the lights of Liverpool behind.  Those touching poignant, heart in the mouth moments, of leaving our homeland - the first time for many a lad - were soon drowned in vomit!  The stink of sickness some several decks below the water line, the hand basins full of spew, and the floors slimy with the emptyings of your cabin mates' stomachs became a memory etched in stone for this bloke. The Irish Sea farewelled us with a vengeance, the worst seas for 11 years that almost sank the cross sea car ferry to Ireland - we learned later!  The ferry apparently took a severe battering to its rear loading doors that were stoved in by the heavy seas and damaged many vehicles on the decks. - such was the ferocity of the weather.

Eight days never passed more slowly, we timid wretched pale sailors entering the cafeteria at one door, grabbing some essential grub and then racing out the opposite door to chunder over the side.  It became a contest to see who could empty the most in the shortest time, strangely enough it was usually the smallest blokes who packed the biggest delivery.  Common sense prevailed eventually and the most sickness prone survived on canned peaches and dry bread.  That tub rolled, pitched and yawed its way across the North Atlantic like the meanest sob on earth - happy was the day we smelled land and Bermuda seemed to lift from the horizon like a sweet smelling rose.  Disembarkation was to be by lighter (the 'Chauncey M Depew') as the Empire Clyde was (evidently) too big to dock, or maybe the Bermuda Queen was taking the available space.  Anyway the next day Sunday "A" Company, bags and baggage and the DCLI Band landed in BD and we Light Infantrymen were marched off with rifles at the trail behind the Band playing "Hearts of Oak".  We marched at LI pace plus - 180 ppm (!) for part of the time - and at 140 ppm most of the way to Prospect Garrison (about 2.5 kms) with all the regimental pomp and 1DCLI ceremony that we became so good at in later months. 

So much for my first sea voyage.  In later years I've spent a great deal of time at sea, travelling the globe by boat to Sweden, Holland, Portugal, Spain , Italy and France, Panama, Djoubouti, Suez, West Indies, Curacao, New Zealand, Malaya and Singapore, Ceylon and West Australia - BUT - never in the stinking aromas reminiscent of the old HMT Empire Clyde.  I'd have willingly blowtorched the first bow plates off that bloody tub.  (Empire Clyde was scrapped in September 1957 at Newport).

Take a look at my website http://djkl157.googlepages.com/home for more 1DCLI Bermuda photos and captions that are being supplemented by contributions by other 1DCLI of the era.

Carpe Diem!

 "Dutch" Hoon giving 2 of us a big lift, and again rhs giving Paddy Sweeney the Deep Six,  Mick Turnbull and Editor right.

The relevance of this particular shot of the Editor in KD is to show the Hamilton wharves backgrounding the Bermuda Queen leaving for mainland USA on its regular trip.  This photo was taken from the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club jettyside where the Editor spent some official time in secondment to the RBYC Signals station during the Newport Bermuda Ocean race in 1954 and depicts the mooring area for the Empire Clyde when she arrived in February 1954.  The harbour area became a popular parkside place for the Company rum addicts - particularly one lad who couldn't resist the stuff - and at a shilling a gallon in a demijohn - maybe one could understand why.  The poor sod was so addicted and wouldn't listen to reason - we secured him by his pants belt tied to the park bench to prevent him falling in the drink when he got p****d out of his brain.

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(Brief posting obo Maurice Scott emailed to Editor on 18th May 2007)

I went out to Eypt in July/August 1951 in HMT SS Empire Test. (Ed. Later named Empire Clyde). She tossed around like a cork as soon as we were off Birkenhead until we had left the Straits of Gibraltar. I couldn't hang my hammock because I didn't know how and there wasn't room anyway. The edges of the accommodation had pools of water. I slept the whole trip under a life boat. There were three of us in our 'party', two Regulars (a Sgt and a Pte) returning to the Battalion after Python Leave, and myself a Rookie NS man of 4 months. The Ship's Crew continually tried to get us involved in Crown and Anchor games. It was jankers if you got caught talking to one of the ship's crew. I never did discover if they were part of the Army, the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy or Civilians.

Pte M A Scott, HQ Coy Clerk #22464644 1st Royal Lincolns.

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Received from John Spencer, Feb, 2009

I have just stumbled across your interesting web site on troop ships and found the reference to the old Empire Test. (Ed. Later named Empire Clyde).  I sailed on her from Liverpool as a newly minted National Service subaltern in April or May 1949, headed for Salonika and the Bedford and Hertfordshire Regiment.   I think she was bound for the Far East with other troops including a detachment of Royal Marine Commandos.  About five days out I had the misfortune of being made Orderly Officer for the day.   I was barely nineteen, brand new and wet behind the ears.  I have a vivid memory of attending the Other Ranks Mess at lunch time and wondering what I was supposed to be doing.  So I asked what I thought was the required question, “Any complaints?”   A huge soldier at the far end of a table jumped to his feet, propelled his plate, food and all, down the table at me and snarled words to the effect, “Yeah, what the hell is this supposed to be?” 

 

My discomfiture was saved by my Orderly Sergeant, equally as large and as tough as my inquisitor, who stepped up shoved me aside and snarled words to the effect, “And what do you want it to be, soldier.”  The sergeant won the stand-off and I learned never to ask unless I knew what the answer was going to be.  A lesson that stood me in good stead in my later career as a cross-examining barrister.

 

2/Lt (in those days) John Spencer, Northamptonshire Regiment, on secondment to the 1st Battalion Beds & Herts.

 

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SS Dunera

 Dunera in 1937

The 12,615-ton Dunera made her maiden voyage from Southampton to China in September 1937.  She was closely associated with the port, first as a troopship for 24 years and then as a pioneering educational cruise liner for seven years.

The ship was ordered by the British India Steam Navigation Company from the Barclay Curle shipyard in Glasgow and when completed was chartered by the government to carry troops.  She and her sister ship, Dilwara, represented considerable advance on the older troopships. During the Second World War the ships took part in the evacuation from Singapore and landings at Madagascar, Sicily and southern France.

Modernisation and refit work in 1950 at Glasgow cost nearly £1m and Dunera continued in service until trooping by sea finished. She still had plenty of life left in her and British India embarked on a bold experiment.The company decided she should continue in service as Britain's first permanent schools cruise liner. During the first year in her new role, she carried more than 10,000 youngsters.

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Photographs supplied January 2007 from the personal collection of Graham Hibbert, author "From Bollington to Zanzibar" (ISBN 1 904546 42 0) available from Waterstones at GBP 8.95 plus postage.  Graham expresses the happy anticipation of hearing from former RAMC staff and passengers. (Inset right Graham Hibbert)

"Quote" In my recently published book "From Bollington to Zanzibar" I tell the hilarious story of how three apprentices set out to fail their National Service medical. They didn't, basic training is followed by a posting to the troopship Dunera as permanent medical staff. There are photographs of Dunera staff and ships hospital patients (1958-59). Fire fighting, adventures in Africa and Far East follow. "Unquote"
 
 
 
 
                                                                                                               
 
  (Above) Bill, Brian & Johnny                                     Bill                                             Blandford
 

(Above) Jock and Ali                                Crews Bar                                        Brian            

          (Above)  Wardlife1                                       Unknown                                               Jock  

       (Above) Valetta                                Steamer Point, Aden                                   WardLife2   

                    

              (Above)  Suez                                                                HMT Oxfordshire 
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Empire Trooper
 

 
 Empire Trooper
 
 (Posted 8th Dec 2006) Memoirs of 4042838  WO2 Bill Griffiths..1 KSLI May 1946 - Dec 1954...RAPC...1954 to 1970..
RAPC  TAVR  1970 to 1984(Ed: Bill has just turned 76 years of age - Congratulations Bill)
Bill's HMT experiences are so noteworthy as to be mentioned in his own Sub-Page.  GO TO:

I have a particular fond memory of the Empire Trooper, as we of the KSLI set sail on her from Korea on 17th September 1952 after 17 months service there.   Strange, but this ship was run by the RAF, and we woke every morning to the sound of the RAF march.   When we docked in Hong Kong on the morning of the 22nd, I was allowed off the ship at 9 am to dash off and marry my dear little Chinese bride, Nancy, who was serving as a WREN with the Hong Kong Defence force when I met her on a blind date on the 28th November 1950.  We both boarded the Trooper again the next morning ( the 23rd ) and set sail for England, arriving at the end of October.1952.  All the daily newspapers carried a report on our return with many photographs of the newly weds, with the heading:  "Korean Veteran returns from the war in Korea with his Chinese bride. They had a Troopship Honyemoon" And what a honeymoon that was. We later travelled back to Hong Kong on the Empire Fowey, returning to UK on the Empire Oxfordshire.  We are still together now, after 54 years, having had a most wonderful life together, wandering round the world as I served on in the army as a regular until 1970, then for a further 13 years with the TAVR. Hanging up my beret in 1984 . Hope this will be of interest. All best wishes Bill Griffiths.

 Bye once again, and all best wishes to you and all old soldiers for a Merry Christmas...  
 
  Attached picture of Bill and Nancy's wedding with some of Nancy's naval ratings
(22 Sept 1952 - that's 54 years.  CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU BOTH)
More family photos below.

 

(Left) Daughter Anthea, Bill & Nancy  (Right)  Bill & Nancy's 5 children with amah and 1 child in Malaysia 1964. Anthea in pram.

Bill and Nancy have a wonderful family today of 2 Grandsons, 3 Granddaughters, and 1 Great Granddaughter

Editor:  Bill Griffiths first posted to the KSLI Guestbook just in October this year (2006) and kindly responded also to the Editor's subsequent Guestbook posting when inquiring about a KSLI Lt Col who had been accidentally killed in Kenya in 1955.   Bill was able to furnish detailed information, that subsequently brought the Editor into email contact with other KSLI troopers who were with the Lt Col as he lay dying,  attended to by a later colleague of Bill Griffiths.  Further to these events, other KSLI troopers have now been discovered, which in turn has brought the Editor into contact with the Lt Col's family in Truro in Cornwall. A long chain of events that show the potential of cross referencing through a central point for matching up historical events that would otherwise be lost.  Maybe others will follow Bill's helpful example in finding lost mates and comrades after a lifetime has passed!  Tempus Fugit!  Carpe Diem!

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HMT Empire Windrush

(Editor)  Bill Griffiths (see Post in Empire Trooper above) has forwarded 2 interesting comments regarding the HMT Empire Windrush.  Bill is very supportive of our HMTroopships website and makes the observation that others (maybe even the 'couple" mentioned below) might respond.  How fantastic a connection that would be, if voices from the past appeared here as a consequence of our Memoirs Page.

"I have a very interesting one here about Troopships..The sinking of The Empire Windrush bringing troops back from Korea in 1954. Attached picture shows passengers climbing down ropes to escape into the lifeboats below. And the attached report was as it appeared in our Korean Veterans Journal. I claim no credit whatsoever for it...It was an article that appeared in our Korean Veterans Journal way back in 1997, however, I did actually meet a couple that were on the ship when it went down. We were at the time coming back from the Far East for the second time in 1958. Can't remember their names, but I distinctly remember them telling their frightening story. This may bring back memories for others who might have been on the ship at the time. Hope it will be of interest for your website". (Bill Griffiths)

(Accredited to the Korean Veterans Journal 1997)  On 28th March 1954 the Troopship Empire Windrush with 1,700 men women and children on board, caught fire and sank in the Mediterranean. All except four crew members were saved. The rescue was one of the greatest in sea history. Only remarkable discipline averted many deaths. One hundred people were seriously hurt and treated in hospitals in Algiers.  Captain W Wilson, the Master of the 14,651 ton Empire Windrush was reported to have said, "The fire was brutal. It was a flash fire, and as soon as I had given the alarm an officer came to the bridge and warned that the fire was gaining and that an officer and three men had perished below. The engine room was gone. Nobody could survive down there. The smoke was pouring all over the ship. It was acrid and flames were shooting all over. That’s when I gave the order to abandon ship." Meanwhile an SOS had been flashed from the Troopship Windrush which was about fifty miles north west of Algiers on the last stretch of a voyage from Kure, Japan where she had just embarked from Korea.

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Fifty three years ago – The Empire Windrush Shipwreck

 Memoirs of Capt RN (retd) Michael RH Page, a passenger on the Windrush
 


    I was a passenger onboard the Troopship Empire Windrush when she caught fire off Algiers in March 1954.   This year is the 53rd anniversary of a remarkable rescue when over 1200 men women and children were saved without a single fatal casualty. Sadly four crew members died in the initial explosion but that was all. There were a number of fascinating stories reported at the time and it would be interesting to see who still remembers that day.  My own memory is still vivid because the day became the first of a new life.  On board were all my worldly possessions and I never saw any of them again with the important exception of my camera and a pocket full of films.   The pictures I took were published in Algiers and then made available to the UK papers without my consent. It was quite interesting to walk down Fleet Street and ask how it was done!!   More important the shipwreck was the cause of my meeting my wife Valerie. Her cousin was also a survivor and we met again at the Summer Ball at the Royal Naval College Greenwich.  Valerie was his guest: the rest is history.  I was returning from the Far East where I had been serving in HMS Defender, a Daring class destroyer in the Korean campaign. The troopship had been in trouble in the Suez Canal with engine problems.  On the last Saturday of the voyage, there was a party to celebrate being “nearly home” but in the early hours there was a large sump explosion in the engine room.  The fire spread rapidly and we had to abandon ship.  Fortunately there were many other vessels in the vicinity, the sea was calm and the sun was rising. Everyone was picked up from lifeboats or out of the water and we were taken to Algiers.  After a night in Algiers HMS Triumph, an Aircraft Carrier arrived to take us all to Gibraltar. Then the RAF flew us home. I was officer in charge of the Ratings flight and still have the nominal list. For a young bachelor it was all rather a joke but for those families returning from a 3 year foreign posting it was anything but.  This picture shows the ship burning taken from my lifeboat that carried many of the officer passengers (and with me in charge!)  Picture Windrush 1  The other I took from our lifeboat as we approached the P&O Freighter Socotra.  Picture Windrush 2 . I took many more pictures and I still have the news papers published in Algiers and London using some of these. 

        ---O--- 

HMT SS Orbita

 

Built by Harland and Wolff at Belfast, launched Jul 7th 1914, 15495 tons, sister ship to Orduna. Troopship from 1941 to being broken up in 1950 by Thos. W. Ward at Newport, Monmouthshire

Posting received from Bill Callen, RAF, 14th May 2007

A "Mention" for Bill has been posted to the "Most Wanted" site

Hello there, I don't know if I am on the right track but having enquired via Google re SS Orbita, I ended up with your email address.

As a regular in the RAF, I sailed from Liverpool on or about December 18th 1940 on SS Orbita, finishing up in Port Elizabeth South Africa on Jan 22nd. 1941 or thereabouts. The convoy was shelled somewhere in the North Atlantic on the morning of Christmas Day 1940, by a German warship. No other details known. I believe that one ship in the convoy was hit and had to make for Gibraltar, while the rest of the convoy after scattering around a bit, sailed safely on. I recall it was a foggy morning and I could see gunflashes, as it seemed to me from all directions. I expect it was from answering fire from our Naval escort.  I would love to hear from any of my old pals who were on board, particularly Bert Rooke .

My particulars are Bill Callen 552127 RAF wireless operator. DOB 19 Oct 1920. Subsequent postings from 42 Air School Port Elizabeth to Kasfareet, Helwan in Egypt, then Western Desert, finishing in Tunis. Returned to UK to St Athan, and then a further tour to the Far East, Bombay, Calcutta, Palembang in Sumatra, Colombo Signals Centre and back to the UK, instructing in Compton Basset until demob in Oct 1947.

Hope I can reach some of my old Oppo's from way back.

Sincerely Bill Callen

PS: (Editor) Bill's email contact arrived through a Google search - which effectively demonstrates how this 'crosslink' platform can be made to work for the benefit of "Old Soldiers" in their search for Old Mates.  We hope that Bill can gain some interest from his mates who will share memories of those perilous times of WW2.

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M.V Devonshire

 

We have been contacted by John Williams of Dagenham Essex in May 2007 to offer his contributions to this website, which of course we have readily accepted.  JW served as a Senior Aircraftsman in the RAF from 1953 until 1956 and uniquely spent most of his time servicing "Z" marine craft and carrying out bomb disposal in Egypt. His civilian occupation as a marine plumber servicing ships of the Bibby Line brought him into touch with many "HMT's" which you can read about in John's Memoirs.  JW's first passenger troopship experience in the RAF was aboard the Lancashire (pictured earlier on this website) on his return home from his duties in Egypt and then, later in civilian life on board the Devonshire.  JW's story is a fascinating mix of unusual military activities (there is a photo of him standing on top of a pile of 2000 lb bombs) and civilian experiences while servicing the transport ships carrying HM Troops to all parts of the globe, during those times when a number of we "Old Soldiers" can recall the rigours of sea travel with vivid clarity.  JW's Memoirs (hotlink) are too lengthy to allocate more space on this site and we have started to publish the pilot pages on a separate site.  JW is contactable via the Editor (hotlink) and is also mentioned on our Most Wanted site. (Editor 23rd July 2007)

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ANECDOTE RECEIVED 10TH APRIL 2009 FROM TOM RICKARD

It seems this is what you need. Driver Thomas Frederick Rickard, Army No 22996479 R.A.S.C. 8 Coy Whitfield Barracks Kowloon, seconded to A platoon 3 Supply Depot at Argyle Street off Nathan Road.1955/1957.

I have not seen in any different Blogs - I think you would call them - relating to the first Troopship to arrive in Hong Kong. The Devonshire as I am aware the only one run by the R.A.F. as against the Army. It would appear the reason that none were coming was they were being used to get the French out of Indo-China.

National Servicemen were being flown home in stages but if one was a Regular [in my case 3 years] they were obliged to wait for demob by troopship even if we would go past our due date of demob. Well, when the 'Devonshire' finally arrived it set off and immediately broke down in the South China Sea, one half of her engines would not work and it was committed to sail at 4 knots. The Suez was blocked and it would have to sail round the Cape. Well you can imagine how long that took at 4 knots and when we finally arrived the powers that be issued everyone with Daily Part One Orders, whereas previously it would go on a bulletin board, saying primarily not to talk to any coloured people at the risk of imprisonment. The various factions in South Africa not only didn't like each other but none of them liked the British, so it actually said 'Don't beat the Imperial Drum', but most importantly it said we would stay in the Cape for a few days while they inspected the engines with view to going back to Durban to repair or steaming on to Liverpool at 4 knots.  (Photo below: Tom Rickard at 11 o'clock 4th row, behind the seated officer, 3rd row) CLICK PHOTO TO OPEN FULL PAGE.

Well contrary to reports, the people of Cape Town [who had had only one other troopship in, with those who had been fighting in Egypt and I think were under the impression we had] feted all that landed and the Mayor took several hundred on a conducted tour. When it was time to return to ship for the sailing, so few had returned that those who did they gave a Regimental Police armband and were told to round up all they could find. Needless to say they virtually all took the armband off and joined the big jolly-up. The ship sailed with if I remember rightly over 200 not back aboard, with a good few waving us off from the top of Table Mountain. These miscreants were gradually rounded up by [genuine] Military Police from Simonstown over a fortnight or so and after, those of us who did return, had to gather all their belongings together, itemising every single thing, when they were to arrive before us at Liverpool and subsequently demobbed before we even arrived, having been put aboard the next troopship into the Cape that didn't have to sail at 4 knots.

Several of us were overdue demob and being a bit of a barrack room lawyer I made representations about what sort of compensation we would be entitled to. Not only did they shoot that one down - saying by the time we had paid the Army back for all out food and accommodation, we would owe them monies and when we got to Borden to be demobbed [after about 14 weeks at sea] had to have three haircuts before the RSM would OK us exiting the camp.

Happy Days. I have a pretty clear picture of our 'A' platoon 3 supply Depot group above [I'm a silver-surfer now and things don't come easy].  Regards,  Driver Thomas Frederick Rickard. DOB 9 /7 /1936. served from early 1954 to LATE 1957. Hope this finds a slot, it would be nice to make contact with old pals.

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SS Franconia

Eastern Prince

 

 

Received from John Giles on 22nd July 2007: I travelled from Liverpool to Port Said 1948 on Cunard White Star SS Franconia and home from Salonika 1949 on the Eastern Prince neither of which are mentioned on your web page. I was National Service Demob Group 104 enlisted 20th February 1947 for 2 years. RASC S/ 19136378 John Giles demobbed as Sergeant. Spent 6 months at Kabrit CSDIC which is where the SAS was formed and 6 months Salonika Interrogation Centre. I have pics of the two ships mentioned. Hope this is of interest.

Thank you John for your contribution of the 2 photos above (Franconia left and Eastern Prince right).  We invite your further comment and maybe a short Memoir or two about your adventures on board these vessels and life during your military service in the late 1940's.  As soon as we receive a uniformed photo of you we will create an additional Mention on our Most Wanted site so that (maybe) your Old Mates will recognise you and develop a contact via the Editor.  An additional shot of the Franconia is shown left, location unknown.  30,000 images of "Old Ships" can be viewed at http://www.britisharmedforces.org/ns/ns/nat_troopships.htm

Memoir from John Giles posted 26th July 2007

I was called up in February 1947 in very snowy weather to Canterbury Kent as 104 Group. After six weeks training I was posted to Cirencester and then Colchester then Aldershot and Bedford. After a year I left Liverpool in the SS Franconia to Port Said calling at Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus on route. We were not allowed ashore. Then from Port Said to the RASC school at Gebel Maryam near Ismailia. Then posted to C S D IC for six months. This was an old camp at Kabrit which I found out many years later was where the SAS was formed. We were told that it was Canal South District Ice Company but really it was a camp to detain German POWs who had run off to live with the native women but who were no danger to anyone else, that is the men I mean.

I was then sent on detachment to Salonika Interrogation Centre (SIC) aboard the Empress of Australia. This was quite a dangerous posting as the civil war was raging at that time but we lived in a private house in the centre and there were lots of local girls around which never happened in Egypt. Remember I was 19 then. There were 5 OR's and 2 officers who lived out. On February 1949 I returned to Southampton on the slow old Eastern Prince taking 14 days but by now I was a sergeant so had nice bunk beds instead of hammocks. I am not sure I was any use to anybody in the two years but just made the number up. Sincerely, John Giles

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 ST Superman

 

Yes - OK - this is no Troopship!!  It is the ST Superman in Hull 1946 where Charles (Nobby) Clark signed on as a boy cook at the age of 15.  Our path of discovery will hopefully show that in fact "Superman" towed many an old Trooper out into the briny, filled to the gunwales with HM Troops.  Nobby has passed on now - RIP (1928-1998) and served in the Merchant Marine and the RAF later.  We are in touch with daughter June who promises to forward some interesting snippets and details of Nobby's service history and postings.  Nobby as a lad pictured left and above to the lhs of the group.  Anyone out there in cyberspace with more information?  Go to "Most Wanted" to read Nobby's profile.

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HMT Orwell

HMT Dilwara 

 

 
Reported by Andrew Beechey 5th October 2008, as told by his mother, Rosemarie Beechey (nee Kershaw) born 1943.

My father Roland Kershaw was in the RAF stationed in Kia Tac in Hong Kong.  During Nov/ Dec 1949 my mother Dorothy Kershaw, brother Kerry, sisters Myra & Sandra and myself, travelled to Hong Kong on the HMT Lancashire. The ship had to make a detour to Trieste, in Italy to pick up soldiers on route. On 2nd Dec 1949 my mother Dorothy gave birth to my sister on that troop ship whilst in the Adriatic Sea. The Captain named her Adria Miranda Kershaw, (The name Adria came from the Adriatic Sea). On her birth certificate in the section for where born it gives the latitude & logitude position rather than location. Two years later we returned on the HMT Empire Orwell. We later spent 2 years in Egypt and in 1954 were shipped out during the Suez crisis on the HMT Dilwara

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